Now that the NCAA Tournament is officially underway, and the dust has settled from the realization that this season would be the first in 13 years to have no postseason tournament games, one can't help but take a moment and wonder... HOW? How did this season come undone so badly? What happened that caused this team to fall sooo far short of what everyone thought they'd be?
I think it's entirely possible that this season was irreparably knocked off course before it even began. Perhaps the single most damaging thing to happen to this year's Golden Eagles squad came back in October, when Duane Wilson went down with that stress fracture. There has been a lot of discussion of how much the team was hurt by Vander Blue's departure for the pros. And while it certainly would have been helpful to have Van, that happened back in April. The coaches picked MU to win the BIG EAST in October. Everyone was fully aware that Vander wasn't going to be playing for Marquette this season.
Part of the reason that was ok, was the highly touted recruiting class that Coach Buzz had coming in to help fill the void - a class that Scout.com ranked as the best in the Big East... the OLD Big East. And a major reason for that distinction was Duane Wilson. While he may not have been as highly ranked as his classmate JaJuan Johnson, Duane appeared positioned to have the most immediate impact on the team. True, he would have been behind Derrick Wilson at the point guard spot. And no, he would not have started. But I firmly believe that Duane would have seen minutes from the very beginning, and would have gotten more and more time as it became apparent that Derrick wasn't going to grow out of his offensive limitations.
Contrary what you might think, Buzz isn't an idiot. He's as aware of Derrick's shortcomings on the floor as the rest of us. See the Jamil Wilson "point forward" experiment, as a prime example of Buzz searching for an alternative to Derrick to try and jumpstart the stalled offense. If Duane had been available, he would have been given the chance to be the offensive sparkplug, and Buzz wouldn't have had to give point guard responsibilities to Jamil (a 6'9" forward) or Todd Mayo (who just isn't wired for that job).
I know it seems counterintuitive to point to a freshman as the player that could have saved the season, given that the other freshman had trouble getting off the bench. But because of the position he played, and the fact that Derrick could've been used as a defensive/ball protector counterbalance when needed, I think Duane would have made a difference. And perhaps I'm biased toward the guy that played his high school ball in my own backyard, versus the guy that played 1200 miles away. Or maybe I'm brainwashed to believe what the recruiting sites tell me, but I feel like Duane would have been able to impact the game in ways that John Dawson wasn't.
Some of the things that were written about Wilson, coming out of high school:
"Wilson is the smooth combo guard who is a very good shooter to go along with being able to set up teammates." -Brian Snow, Scout.com
"Wilson has a nice mid range game that includes an excellent pull up and spin move in the lane, that he completes with excellent touch and body control." -ESPN.com Recruiting Nation
"(He could) take over when the game needed to be taken over. He was really clutch at doing that." -Dominican HS coach Derek Berger, via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Now, I understand that all of this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. BUT imagine if it's accurate. Imagine having the option of putting the ball in the hands of someone with those type of skills. Imagine being able to set high ball screens for someone that could make defenses pay for going under screens as far as they consistently did against Derrick. Imagine having another option at the end of games, besides Todd Mayo. Now imagine what the season could have been if this player had been available from the beginning.